Friday, 17 September 2010

Media Lens on Marr, Blair and Iraq casualty lies

Another, ever-indebted nod to the Media Lens editors for their latest critique of journalists in obsequious service to power.

This time, not for the first, their attentions are on Andrew Marr, the BBC's servant-of-choice to interview Tony Blair as he parades his fact-distorting book, his unrelenting vanity and his self-serving invincibility to that most elementary legal and moral custom: telling the truth.

Many people, the millions of marchers, the 'uninformed' public, the would-be 'passive citizenry', all understood the lies and evasions being fashioned in the corridors of power in a resolute effort to take the country to war.

Honourable insiders like senior Foreign Office diplomat Carne Ross have, as ML illustrate, provided more than ample corroboration of those public suspicions. A veritable pile of damning evidence sits in the Chilcot file and beyond fingering Blair as a calculating, self-protecting warmonger. Over a million Iraqis are in their graves, a nation displaced and traumatised. And still, Blair enjoys this kind of studio freedom to peddle his fantastic lies.

As in the Alert, it's worth citing again just what Marr said in testament to Blair as Baghdad fell to the illegal US/UK-led forces:
“Well, I think this does one thing - it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of... well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren’t going to thank him - because they’re only human - for being right when they’ve been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I said. But I think this is very, very important for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics.

“I don't think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he’s somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.” (Marr, BBC 1, News At Ten, April 9, 2003)
Marr's other recorded support for Blair's 'ethical interventions', including his proposed ground war against Serbia, made him the BBC's ideal choice. As ML assert, there could be no better, safer host.

Blair's capacity for self/public deception needs no further elaboration. But what about Marr's complicit amplification of the grand lie? How can an 'incisive journalist' like Marr accept such a remit knowing the protective distortions he's uttered? Where is the conscientious reflection, the cursory admission, even, of his 'mistaken' servitude? And how can the BBC, as a supposedly 'neutral' news body, hand such a task to someone so obviously in thrall to Blair and his actions?

The answers, of course, need little elucidation: political closure and elite management; the establishment looks after its own. Indeed, as ML point out, there doesn't have to be any accountable explanation:
"So why does the BBC, a public service broadcaster, habitually turn to journalists who have previously declared their firm support for Blair’s militant Christian policies to interview Blair about those policies? The answer is that no-one outside the BBC has the remotest idea - there is flat-zero openness on this kind of choice; it is deemed none of the public’s business."
Some semblance of 'critical' investigation must, however, be observed. This, after all, is the BBC.

Thus, with no hint of his own past overtures, Marr asks Blair about the "toxic" legacy of Iraq and (putting on weary voice) how he views those who wish to see him in the dock at the Hague. Making some derisory noises, Blair brushes them aside:
"But they're not...the majority of people are far more sensible about issues like this...sure you'll know, the people who do the blogs and the whatever nowadays and will come on the's not the whole of people [sic]."
Marr is content to let the dismissal pass, as though Blair's criminality is some kind of petty misdemeanour being pursued by a vexatious, moaning minority.

In addition, the ML piece reveals establishment efforts to discredit the Lancet findings on the million-plus casualties in Iraq, further undermining the media-preferred Iraq Body Count version.

The Alert also cites impressive study insights on how casualty figures actually decline in inverse relation to increased hostilities and the higher attendant danger faced by journalists, noting that Iraq has proved the most deadly war, to date, for correspondents. In short, the greater the danger, the less likely journalists are to report civilian deaths, hence the deep unreliability of IBC's 100,000 figure, a truth, as with the Lancet findings, conveniently ignored even by our 'best' liberal media.

Which, again, should make us so very appreciative of the fine, probing and now-developing Media Lens project, as indicated by this welcome footnote to the Alert:
"Having started Media Lens in 2001, we are delighted to announce that, a mere nine years later, David Cromwell has finally escaped from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton to join David Edwards in working full-time on the project. No longer can the BBC’s John Sweeney claim that we are “two moonlighting clerks from the White Fish Authority or some such aquatic quango”. (Sweeney, letter to New Statesman, September 22, 2003)"
Great to have David Cromwell on-deck, full time. And a nice piece of shark-seething vitriol from Mr Sweeney. Isn't it revealing how such 'champion liberals' reserve their most vicious bites for ML and its supporters?

John Hilley

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